He Wants Us

2 Samuel 19 and Psalm 51 – Resurrection Eve

Have you ever wondered when the deniers, doubters, crucifiers, and liars had their moment of realization of who Jesus was and their role in His death? Was it immediate, like Peter when the rooster crowed the third time? Or did it take longer, after Jesus had been taken from the cross and put in the tomb? Or was it not until days later, when word got around that Jesus was alive, and Thomas even put his hand into his side.  Did they respond like David does, in his Psalms about his own sins? Had I been there, would I have realized it immediately, or would it have taken me awhile to understand? What would have been my response to knowing I put Jesus on the cross?

From an early age I learned about Jesus and have never doubted who He was or what He did for me.  As I got older, my heart to please God was challenged by my selfishness and temptations to sin. In high school especially, I was stuck on this hamster wheel of wanting to “be good” and do the right thing, but time and time again would fall into cycles of sin and rebellion. I would go through a period of mourning, praying, and vow to not fall into that junk again. I would “be good” for awhile and then it would start over. I was so frustrated with myself and lack of self control. Everything seemed so easy and made so much sense sitting in church on Sundays and at youth group on Wednesday nights.  But by Friday night – it all flew out the window.

I made a decision when I was 16 to try to get off that hamster wheel for good, and I wanted a REAL CHANGE. While I had always believed in Jesus, I needed to do something different and drastic in my life so that I could be more consistent in my choices to follow Jesus. I believed. I could talk the talk. I needed to WALK the WALK – even on the weekends.  I joined a conservative faith community that was rich in tradition and strong in holy habits.  The fellowship of the close-knit group was unmatched. The believers there invested time and energy in helping me understand God’s Word. I learned so much in this season of life and thank God for putting people into my path to draw me to Him.

One of the biggest things I learned is that even with all of the holy habits, fellowship, and accountability, I still sinned.  As much as I wanted to ‘be good’, I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And it took my early adult years to figure out that God doesn’t want me to ‘be good’. He wants me forgiven. This is why He brought us Jesus. In my youth I found myself categorizing sin and thought mine was the worst – if I could just stop those major sins, then I would be acceptable in God’s eyes. It took a lot of years to really believe that ALL sin is unrighteousness in God’s eyes. While sins may have greater or lesser consequences on earth – the sin itself is all the same: separation from God, no matter how big or small.

During this time of growth, the elder of our church, a kind and sweet man named Ervin, would point me back to Psalms 51. Over and over again, I would counsel with him, pour my heart out, trying to figure out why I would still from time to time fall back into those old sinful ways and make bad decisions.  He was so patient with me, and would read this scripture with me.  Even though it was twenty years ago, I can clearly recall our conversations.  He would encourage me to go home and pray the prayers that David did, a man who loved God so much and would still find himself in a mess of sin. And just like David, I would weap and mourn over my sins and ask God for forgiveness.  My quest to “be good” was a fruitless journey – and through prayers like Psalm 51, I found that a broken heart for my sin drew me closer to Him more than my checklist of ‘being good’ ever did.  As C.S. Lewis said: God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants US.

Today, on Holy Saturday, the time between Jesus’ death on the cross, and His victory over the grave tomorrow, I can’t help but put myself there and walk through the range of emotions.

It is our sins against God that crucified Jesus that Friday vs. 4 and David calls his own sin what it is – evil.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;

I wonder how quickly we would have realized this and sought forgiveness and change. Would it have been the very next day, on Saturday?  Would we have prayed vs. 10?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And then to wake up Sunday morning and learn that HE IS ALIVE! Would we really believe? Would we spend the rest of our days living in the JOY that salvation brings (vs. 10)?

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

How would our lives be different if we lived everyday with the utmost JOY for Jesus conquering the grave and the utmost JOY for our salvation?

Standing on the Promises

2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 39

With a gapped tooth grin from ear to ear, I handed my mom an egg carton jewelry box on Mother’s Day, over thirty years ago.  It was a soft yellow styrofoam carton, that was covered with paint, paper shapes and flower pipe cleaners.  It was BEAUTIFUL! I had worked so diligently on her special gift, and she proudly displayed it on her dresser and put all of her treasures in it… I was so proud to give her something so beautiful that she could see and use every day.

David, he sure loved His God. In a similar way, we read in 2 Samuel 7, how he wanted to build something special for the Lord to dwell. It sure made sense to me – David’s living in a beautiful cedar home, and he wanted something even better for God. We know God cares about details, order, reverence, and respect, and this seemed right in line.  But God’s ways are always above our ways, and while I believe David’s heart was in the right place, the Lord used it as an opportunity to reveal his future plans and make a covenant with him.  Instead of David building a house for the Lord, the Lord outlines the eternal house (kingdom) that He will build through David and his heirs.

God later refers to this in Psalms 89:3 as:

“I have made a covenant

with my chosen one.”

God promises to raise up David’s offspring, establish their kingdom forever, and they will build a house for the Lord’s name. This promise, the foretelling of Jesus, is an early picture of God’s future plans for the Messiah.

God makes this covenant, with full knowledge of the future. He knows what David’s choices will be in the years to come.  From times of obedience, to times of sin, God’s perfect ability to bring discipline and steadfast love is unmatched on this earth.

The second half of this chapter is David’s bewildered response to God’s promise to Him. He has been forgiven, protected, guided, changed, and God just told him He will do even MORE than that for David and his offspring! The soft heart of David, full of humility and love for the Lord, is one I want to emulate more consistently.

Thinking back to times when my heart was softest and focused on closeness with God, several instances come to mind:

  • the ‘first love” feelings of Jesus overwhelmed me when I first became a Christian
  • seasons of deep repentance, forgiveness, and gratitude
  • God answered prayers with my newborn daughter’s spina bifida and surgeries
  • discovering a new truth or lesson in the Word

I can go back to those moments and feelings that nothing else in the world mattered – God was with me and would be with me in the future, and I was firmly standing on that promise.

When I stumble across an old journal entry or something written down during those time, it is so faith affirming to see God’s work in my life. The book of Psalms often reads like David’s own journal entries of God’s promises, God’s deliverances, God’s protection. David loved proclaiming what God has done and will do in his life. He believed it, and he stood firm on those truths.

Are you standing firm in the promise God has given you? A promise of a life with him forever, filled with love and joy, where there will be no more tears and death. He is the perfect promise keeper.  When the world around you fails, His promises never fail.

Searching for the Heart of God

Today’s Reading : 2 Samuel 2Psalm 34

During our journey through the books of Samuel, we have encounter many versions of Saul and David, and this is the time that we are able to see David become king of Judah and soon Israel.   The one amazing trait that I see constantly throughout the text is David’s passion and undying reverence and relationship with God and David’s heart.

2 Samuel 2: 1-7

 After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.” So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

When they told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,” David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

In these verses, David is inquiring and listening to the direction of God.  He active listens to God and then clarifies the orders to make sure that he is doing the exact mission and directions that are presented to him.  There have been many times that I have wondered what way to travel or which road to take.  Because I relied on my own understandings I have experienced some very interesting adventures and been saved from myself through grace.  How different would my adventures have been if I was aligned properly with God and had the discernment to ask these easy questions?  David has lived and understood the richness and fullness of what God has in store for him.

Also in this passage, we see that David is genuinely compassionate for Saul, God’s anointed one.  He has had several opportunities to take the throne and have his revenge on Saul, but he always refers to “What is God’s plan for His Anointed?”   David has been given Saul’s life so many times in 1 Samuel, it is hard to keep a tally.  But he always inquires God about how to deal with Saul.   He revenges the lies that were spoken about Saul’s death and blesses those that buried Saul: his king, mentor, and father-in-law.  This is a testament of his internal character, David loved God and loved his neighbor and his enemy.   This is the Ahava, an unconditional love that cannot be explained.  It is the love that God has for us.   Once we have tasted the goodness of God, it is impossible to not want to give it to others.  May we be blessed to seek God as David has and listen to his direction.

Leadership Lessons From David

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 30 and Psalm 31.

One of the things I love about writing for Bible Journal is it really makes me take a step back and ask myself what God is teaching us through Scriptures where I may have easily glanced over it during a quick read. Today, I was blown away by 2 great leadership examples through David in 1 Samuel 30.

First, we see in 1 Samuel 30:6 David “strengthened himself in the Lord His God.” How did David do this? He came to Lord in prayer, asking for wisdom as to what to do, and then he took action by following the Lord’s direction pursuing Amalekites. Let’s not glance over how terrible it looked for David. His town had been burned and his family was gone leaving him not knowing if they were dead or alive. David faced trouble with Saul, but I often think of the people always loving David due to his victory over Goliath amongst others, but apparently it was still a “what have you done for me lately world” back then because we also read in verse 6 the people talked of stoning him. Psalm 31 gives us a prayer by David which is likely very similar to what David prayed during this time. We know in Matthew 11:28 Jesus tells us, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.” God doesn’t care if you haven’t turned to Him in the past and if it took things getting really bad before you turned to Him for the first time or again in some cases. He just wants your heart..now.  He wants you to believe fully that He will pull you through it trusting in Him. What challenge are you facing today you don’t think you can handle or rebound from? “Strengthen yourself in the Lord” by praying for wisdom and guidance…then trust in Him and act upon His direction.  This is what David did and his family was safely returned through he and his people’s victory over the Amalekites.

The second lesson we learn from David is when things are going great and the Lord gives us victory, we give the glory to God. For it is Him who does these things through us. How easy is it to be prideful in thinking…”look at what I did”….when things are going well. We are all guilty of this. Psalm 31:23 tells us that is not a good thing to do. Those who went into battle did not want to give their winnings to those who stayed back, but David says in 1 Samuel 30, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us and given into our hand the hand that came against us.” David immediately recognizes in the presence of others this victory came from God and gives him the credit.  I love the quote, “Being humble does not mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less.”  Why should we think less of our self and that we are not capable or that God doesn’t have big things planned for us? Psalm 139:13 tells us we were created by the Almighty God and he “knit” us together. Thinking less of our self essentially means thinking less of God then since He created us, doesn’t it? But, in being humble, we DO think of ourselves less, and we give to those around us just as David models in 1 Samuel 30:24. We must think to ourselves, “For it was not me who did this, but God through me.”  David realized not everyone is meant to be a mighty warrior and go into battle.  He shared with those for whom God had a different role.

Both leadership lessons of strengthening ourselves in the Lord by trusting in Him through prayer, believing He can pull us out of any situation no matter how impossible it looks because our confidence is in Him, not our self, and then giving the glory to God are summed up by Paul again in Ephesians 3:20-21.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Let us move forward today in confidence and give him the glory!

Wait on the Lord

1 Samuel 26 and Psalms 27

1 Samuel 26 reads like a repeat of 1 Samuel 24, that we explored two days ago with Jennifer Armstrong.  The circumstances are two different events, although  similar, with Saul once again pursuing David. David has another opportunity to kill him, yet he shows mercy for the second time.  The picture Jennifer painted of choosing reconciliation over revenge, and trusting God’s authority, is applicable to this chapter as well.

I love how Psalms 27 so clearly describes David’s experiences outlined in 1 Samuel. He shows us that putting the Lord at the center of his life removes his fears (verse 1). Surrounded by enemy armies, he declares his confidence in God’s protection (verse 2-3). Even when David had the opportunity to take control, kill his enemy, he chooses to show mercy and allow God to work how He will.  TWICE!

Like David, we can trust God to deal with our enemies. Do you have a Saul in your life that you need to commit to the Lord’s hands?  He is the supreme authority, the righteous judge, and the ultimate miracle worker.  As a mentor once told me, “Let that go… it’s above your pay grade. That’s work that the Lord will do”.

I’m so encouraged by David’s cries out to the Lord in this Psalm, seeking wisdom and leadership (verse 11) in the middle of his drama. He chooses to WAIT for the Lord, even when under duress.

In contrast, my instinct is to take action. The Lord continues to give me opportunities to be patient and wait on Him. I’m a problem-solver, coming up with a mental action plan for the 12 “what-if” scenarios I create in my mind for any given situation. Inaction can make me uneasy, even when I know that immediate action isn’t always the best solution.  Waiting – whether it’s on direction from the Lord, or for my kids to get in the car – does not come easy.

I can think of a big season of waiting in my life, while handling hurts at the hands of others. God used this time to grow my trust in Him, He provided more wisdom, and delivered hope.  He protected my heart from seeking revenge, and in time, turned it toward reconciliation.  Had I taken immediate action, the outcome would be very different.  While the waiting can be the hardest part, in hindsight, we can see the beautiful work God does. For me, more time brought more truth.  And more time and truth brought more healing.

Lord, Thank you for being a righteous judge.  Please give us an ear to hear your direction and a heart to follow. Help us to know the difference of when you are leading us to wait and when you are leading us to action. Amen 

Love vs. Law

 

Today’s Reading:  I Samuel 21; Psalms 22

In today’s reading, we find David, our anointed king running for his life. King Saul has been attempting to trap and kill David, but Jonathan has been a savior for David. This friendship has proven more valuable than the relationship that Jonathan and his father, Saul, had together. In I Samuel 21, David is fleeing and terrified for his life and safety. David enters the temple of God and request food and weapons.

I Samuel 21: 1-6

 Then David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

It was against the Levitical Law for anyone to eat of the holy bread except the priest and this was a very important law, which had fatal consequences if broken. The priest was faithful, even with the potential of death to show love for David. David had been anointed the next king of Israel, but it was not revealed to many.   But the Spirit of God revealed something in David to the priest, and this caused the priest to show compassion toward him. By listening to the Spirit, the priest empowered David to face his adversaries with the needed nourishment and protection. This account with David is so impactful that Christ in the New Testament about the Love vs. Law scenario references it.

Matthew 6: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Over the last several weeks, I have been reading and spending meaningful and intentional quite time and have had several enlightenment times that circle back to the necessity of learning the word of God, but allowing the Spirit of God to lead and direct me. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the “obligatory” and traditional ways and manners of worship and lose sight of the true purpose of the “why”.   In this passage the priest listens to the Spirit of God and loves the person and presence of God in David.   I have attempted to be more like David and search for God’s heart. As Christ and David understood and lived, “God desires mercy, not sacrifice”. It’s not the “act” that God wants from us, it is the “want and need” to be close to him. Can we desire God more today, this week, and so on going forth?

Lord, allow us to desire you the same way that you desire us. Allow us to love you as you have loved us. I pray that my prayers and actions are not just to perform them, but to actually seek you and your presence. Amen

A Special Friendship

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 18 and Psalm 19.

“…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…”

1 Samuel 18:1

Today we read about the wonderful friendship that Jonathan and David developed, despite Jonathan’s dad, Saul, disliking and being jealous of David. Jonathan being selfless, humble, and giving stripped himself of his own robe, armor, bow, sword, and belt and gave it to David. It says after this David was successful.

This past year, my Dad lost his Jonathan. His best friend, Doug McCumber, left this Earth to be with his Lord and Savior in Heaven unexpectedly. When my Dad and Mom moved to Tuscola, Illinois for a teaching job in the 1970s, knowing Doug, but not extremely well, Doug helped them get a house before they even arrived in town without them even seeing it! As a banker, he helped them get on their feet financially as well. From there, he continued to help my Dad get plugged into a community where he knew no one. They played tennis and basketball together with Doug taking him with his tickets to Illini basketball and football games which they both were passionate about. The only thing they never agreed on was Cubs and Cardinals. Even though my parents moved a few short years later from Tuscola, and this was way before cell phones, text messages, and emails, the 2 remained extremely close with Doug becoming my Godfather when I was born a few years later. Later in life, they enjoyed their morning walk and talks on Ft. Myers Beach each year with some of their most deep and memorable ones being this last summer which neither of them knew would be their last ones. Doug wasn’t just the average friend to my father. Like Jonathan giving up his most prized battle possessions, Doug never let you pay for a meal, and if you were lucky enough to steal the check from the waiter, he was genuinely mad. He didn’t want you to bring food to the tailgate. He’d supply that, along with the tickets to the game, too! That was just Doug. He was a true best friend, and I know my Dad will forever be grateful for all Doug did for him.

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is relationships. Of course, our relationship with Jesus is the top priority, but He also gives us relationships with others in this world to help us. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, King Solomon says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We need our friend to help us in times we are struggling. We need our friend to let us know when we may have a blind spot we are not aware of. They can help us when we are struggling with our marriage, with finances, career issues, our children, and numerous other things….even when we don’t know we need it or just don’t want to hear it.

What battle are you fighting alone right now? Don’t. Go to your Jonathan. They will give you their robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt to help you. God put them in your life for a reason.

On the flip side, who do you know that’s struggling? Who can you be Jonathan for? It’s not easy. We’re busy and have our own lives, and it could make things uncomfortable with your relationship depending on their reaction. But, God put you in their life for a reason. Maybe this is it. Maybe you can help them. I’d say it’s worth the risk.

If you’re reading this a little bit sad because you are not sure if you have a Jonathan and David relationship in your life, I bet you do. You just don’t know it yet. Maybe you need to give to someone like Jonathan did. If Jonathan would not have been so giving, when he didn’t need to, it’s likely this friendship would have never become what it was with David. If Doug wouldn’t have bent over backwards to help my Dad, asking nothing in return, their special friendship likely would have never developed.

Don’t fight battles alone. Go talk with your Jonathan, or go be a Jonathan!